Tourist upsurge in Kashmir spark security concerns


Srinagar, India : As Kashmir shivered after the upper reaches in the scenic valley experienced fresh snowfall tens of thousands of tourists from the heat-baked plains of India are flocking to the disputed territory to escape the oppressive and scorching weather.

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Fresh snowfall in the upper reaches of Kashmir and heavy rains in the plains have led to a drastic fall in temperature since Tuesday forcing people to take to the woolens while mainland India is virtually broiling at over 40 degrees Celsius.

Even hills in the Srinagar outskirts received an unexpected coating of snow, covering higher slopes and tree-tops in a wintry white in the prime of spring.

Srinagar recorded 30 mm of rain in the twenty-four hours and weathermen said that more was on the way.
Chilly winds accompanying the heavy rains turned outdoors into an extremely cold proposition needing protective clothing as a shield against the elements.

Heating arrangements like room-heaters, and even traditional kangris, are back in use in the valley’s homes.

Tourists flocking the Valley seem to be relishing the respite from scorching weather prevailing in the mainland India.

The state government is keeping its fingers crossed as tourist figures rise.

The Tourism Department is reluctant to give figures, wary of making any connection between peace in the state and the tourism upsurge.

The tourist influx meanwhile has put additional strain on the security apparatus of the state.

Sources in the Tourism Department report a 20 per cent increase in advance bookings, with around 70 per cent hotels in Kashmir already booked.

Kashmir once dubbed the Switzerland of the east is centre of a bloody revolt for last twenty years resulting in a sharp fall in the tourist arrivals.

In an attempt to boost the tourism India has recently for the first time thrown open nearly 100 high-altitude mountain peaks, hitherto forbidden to foreigners as well as local climbers.